HUNTER CREEK PRESCRIBED FIRE
The U.S. Forest Service will conduct a prescribed fire in the Hunter Creek Valley starting Friday, May 13, 2022.
Carefully planned fire will reduce hazardous fuels and improve wildlife habitat
ASPEN, Colo. – Fire managers with Aspen Fire and the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit anticipate conditions will be good tomorrow for igniting the Hunter Creek Prescribed Fire two miles northeast of Aspen.
Firefighters plan to burn up to 1,200 acres on White River National Forest lands to reduce dense vegetation and other fuels, which improves wildlife habitat by stimulating new vegetation growth and lowers the risk of large wildfires.
“We are monitoring the conditions on the ground along with site-specific weather forecasts very carefully,” said Dan Nielsen, Central Zone Prescribed Fire and Fuels Specialist with the White River National Forest. “If conditions are not within the pre-identified prescription, we will not ignite the prescribed fire.”
Fire conditions currently vary widely across western Colorado based on elevation, slope, aspect, and other factors. While some lower elevations are seeing high fire danger, higher elevations are still covered in snow. The Hunter Creek Prescribed Fire area is above 7,500 feet elevation and bordered by snow, which will be used to help keep the prescribed fire within the desired perimeter.
Firefighters will ignite small, manageable sections of the burn area by helicopter. Firefighters on the ground will help ensure the fire stays within the planned perimeter. Potentially large amounts of smoke may be visible, particularly in the early afternoon. Most smoke should transport out of the area with the forecasted westerly transport winds.
Fire managers have developed a detailed prescribed fire plan and obtained smoke permits from the State of Colorado for the planned burn. Please contact Dan Nielsen 970-309-8198 for additional information. Prescribed fire smoke may affect your health. For more information, visit: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/wood-smoke-and-health.
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When will the burn take place?
The project will be implemented when conditions are ideal for a safe and effective prescribed fire. Conditions are considered suitable when the snow has sufficiently melted off the targeted areas and other surrounding areas still retain moisture and snow. These conditions typically occur in April or early May. Other environmental factors such as wind, temperature, and relative humidity are key elements to a successful controlled ignition. If conditions are not favorable, the project will be delayed.
How long will the burn take?
Ignition will take place over a 1-3 day period. During this time, ignition operations typically last 4- 6 hours per day. Once ignition operations cease, crews will remain to monitor and contain fire spread.
Where will the prescribed burn happen?
See the map. Prescribed fire will be ignited across approximately 1,100 acres in targeted blocks of aspen and mixed mountain shrub vegetation that is decadent, of poor condition, and degraded forage value.
What should I expect during the prescribed fire?
On the days of the burn please do not call 911 if you see flames or smoke in this area. There may be large volumes of smoke visible at times, and people may even see flames. You can expect to see fire engines, crews, and possibly a helicopter over the fire. Signs and personnel will be posted for public safety. Little to no fire will be visible overnight.
What about the smoke?
Prior to burning, a smoke permit is obtained through the State of Colorado, Air Pollution Control Division. A project objective is to minimize smoke impacts on surrounding communities. Smoke may be seen from nearby communities and roads. Smoke should dissipate during the day but may remain on the valley floors as temperatures drop.
If you have a smoke sensitivity, please contact Dan Nielsen at 970-309-8198 so that we can keep you informed of smoke conditions. Prescribed fire smoke may affect your health. For more information, please visit: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/wood-smoke-and-health.
Can I fly my drone to see the fire?
Drones are illegal around fire operations. They are a threat to firefighter and public safety. NO Drone Zone.
Wasn't there a prescribed fire in Hunter Creek in 2016?
Yes - about 900 acres were burned. Five to ten years after a prescribed fire, it is very common to come back and burn the same area again. This practice is referred to as re-entry. There are a number of reasons for re-entries including: burning units that weren’t burned during the initial fire, reburning areas that burned very mildly during the first fire, and maintaining areas opened up by the initial burn.
Where can I get more information and sign up for alerts?
- White River National Forest Facebook page at Facebook @WhiteRiverNF.
- Contact the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District at (970) 963-2266
Sign up for alerts:
- Pitkin County Alert System: Information will be disseminated via the Pitkin Alert system. To sign up for the alert system visit www.PitkinAlert.org.
- Garfield County: http://garco911.org/.
- Eagle County: Eagle County - Citizen Alert - Sign In (everbridge.net)
“We will only ignite during conditions that allow us to maintain control of the prescribed fire. We monitor weather and fuels to meet resource objectives with these burns, and we strive for good smoke dispersal to minimize impacts to nearby communities,” said Lathan Johnson, UCR Assistant Fire Management Officer.
The prescribed burn is part of the Hunter Creek Smuggler Mountain Cooperative Plan. Fire managers have developed a detailed prescribed fire plan and obtained smoke permits from the State of Colorado.
Special thanks to the following organizations for participation and collaboration:
USFS White River National Forest
City of Aspen
Aspen Fire Protection District
Aspen Center for Environmental Studies
Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers
Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association